What Is Cornice, Pelmet And Plinth In A Kitchen?

In the world of kitchens, there’s a name for everything and sometimes it can get a bit confusing. A question I get asked a lot is – what is cornice, pelmet, and plinth, and what are the differences between them?

I’ve put this quick and easy post together to explain everything you need to know about cornice, pelmet, and plinth.

What Is Cornice, Pelmet And Plinth?

Diagram showing cornice, pelmet and plinth in a kitchen
Diagram showing cornice, pelmet and plinth in a kitchen
  • Cornice: (sometimes called kitchen crown moulding) is the decorative trim that is fitted on top of wall cabinets and full-height cabinets. It comes in different styles, shapes, and sizes, depending on the design of the kitchen. Usually, a more modern square look, or a more ornate traditional look.
  • Pelmet: (sometimes called a light rail) is a smaller decorative trim that is fitted on the bottom of the wall cabinets at the front edge below the door. The style of pelmet differs across kitchen designs.
  • Plinth: (sometimes called a kickboard or toe kick) is fitted at the bottom of the base cabinet and sits on the floor, covering the gap created by the cabinet legs. It is usually between 60-200mm high. This will vary depending on the style of the kitchen. More modern kitchens typically have a shorter plinth.

All three come in different lengths depending on the manufacturer. However, they typically come in lengths of 2.4m to 3m and are cut to size during the kitchen installation.

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What Is The Purpose Of Cornice, Pelmet And Plinth?

Cornice and pelmet are primarily decorative elements of a kitchen. Cornice can help fill the gap between the top of the wall cabinet and the ceiling and give the appearance of extra height to your cabinets.

As well as being decorative, a pelmet can be useful to hide any lighting fixed on the underside of the wall cabinet, such as LED strip lights.

Plinth in a kitchen serves a more practical purpose. It is there to hide the feet of the base cabinets and stop any debris from going underneath the cabinets.

It also helps to create a more solid-looking and neat finish to a kitchen, connecting the cabinetry to the floor.

The Different Styles Of Cornice, Pelmet and Plinth

Traditional Cornice

Kitchen with a more traditional cornice pelmet and plinth
Kitchen with a more traditional cornice

A traditional style cornice is more decorative, taller, and often curved. It is more commonly seen in classic or traditional style kitchens.

Contemporary Cornice

Kitchen with a more contemporary cornice.
Kitchen with a more contemporary cornice.

A contemporary cornice is cleaner, shorter, and has less ornate detailing to it. Oftentimes it will just be a plain square strip to add a little finishing detail to a kitchen.

Inset (or Recessed) Plinth

inset plinth kitchen
Kitchen with inset plinth

An inset (or sometimes called recessed) plinth is when the plinth is set back a little bit from the bottom of the cabinet and doors. This is the most common style of plinth and allows a little bit of space for your feet to be tucked in when standing at the worktop or sink.


Kitchen with skirting at base instead of plinth
Kitchen with skirting

Skirting in a kitchen is slightly different from a plinth as it sits on the outside of the base cabinets and usually has some decorative detail. It is more common in traditional and in-frame style kitchens and gives a stronger and grander look.

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Do Kitchens Need To Have Cornice, Pelmet and Plinth?

You do not have to have cornice or pelmet fitted to your kitchen. They are primarily decorative, so are not needed for any structural reason.

It is very common that modern kitchens won’t have any cornice or pelmet fitted. It gives a more streamlined and clean look, which suits certain kitchen styles.

It’s all down to personal preference and design taste.

However, most kitchens will require a plinth. This is because it supports the structure of the kitchen and hides (often unsightly) cabinet feet.

The exception is kitchens comprising freestanding cabinets that are installed as pieces of furniture. As these are standalone, fully-designed items and are not part of a fitted kitchen, they do not necessarily require a plinth.

Kitchen with no cornice or pelmet

Final Thoughts…

There you have it! My quick and handy guide to understanding what cornice, pelmet and plinth are in a kitchen, as well as the different styles available.

Now that you know, are you a fan of the traditional kitchen style with its ornate cornice and pelmet? Or do you prefer the clean and simple modern look?



Michael from

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.